Launched in May 2019, our Mental Motivators project aimed to improve mental health provision as part of our existing self-care groups in Bangladesh. Mental health issues have long been synonymous with people affected by leprosy, with over half of people with newly diagnosed cases of leprosy and lymphatic filariasis developing anxiety and depression.
Our Mental Motivators project can help provide an important service to improve the mental health and quality of life for up to 10,000 families.
The project was initially implemented in the areas of Sirajgonj, Natore, Bogura and Pabna Districts of Bangladesh, with the focus of improving good mental health across communities where individuals and families experienced low self-esteem, low status, little social interaction and exclusion from within their immediate community and wider society. Our pilot project identified 500 cases where people affected by leprosy or LF benefitted from mental health services and counselling.
Existing self-care groups offer a unique platform for people with a disability to help each other access services that would not be accessible if each person approached them individually. Already active in our self-care groups, Mental Motivators were selected based on their interests and affinity. We provided training in basic counselling skills including empathy, listening and the health systems available.
Mental Motivators have a dual role; they support people who have indicated they would like someone to talk to and actively find group members who are becoming withdrawn, quiet or upset, all tell-tale signs that a mental health issue may also be part of their condition.
While helping people with their worries and concerns about their diagnosis or symptoms, the Mental Motivators can signpost to appropriate education and employment opportunities, as well as any governmental support that they may be entitled to but not receiving.
Mental Motivators are supported by local medical professionals who can step in where an individual requires more specialist help. Lepra also supports our volunteers and staff to ensure that their own wellbeing is being protected and helps them with their own mental health.
By becoming a Mental Motivator, people improve their prospects while helping others to improve theirs. This can give them a valuable experience they can use in their day to day lives or help them secure employment.
Following the success of the Mental Motivator project, and with thanks to additional funding from Baillie Gifford, we were able to widen the reach of the Mental Motivator Project to the districts of Dinajpur, Kurigram and Lalmonirhat with a scaled-up project, Khola Mon. We have also been able to follow up with beneficiaries and increase the number of front-line health workers.
Our work has shown that 90% of moderate or severe cases of mental ill-health can be found where Mental Motivators are not active in the community. It is evident that counselling together with other interventions bear a significant role in reducing anxiety, depression and prejudice for individuals and their families.
Through our Mental Motivator projects, we hope to reach more people affected by leprosy or LF and offer support for their mental wellbeing. Our third project, PROSHANTI, started in April 2021 and is being implemented in four new districts - Panchagar, Thakurgaon, Rangpur, Nilphamary.